Sunday 19 November 2017

We have no evidence US has bugged our phones, says Gilmore

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is under pressure as his party flounders in the polls
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is under pressure as his party flounders in the polls

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore said the Government had no evidence of the possible bugging of telephones in Ireland by the US.

Mr Gilmore again condemned the United States for the tapping of phone conversations across Europe, saying yesterday: "Friends don't bug each other's telephones."

The Government raised concerns with the US authorities at official level about the possible bugging of phone calls in Ireland.

The Tanaiste's top official discussed the matter with the US Embassy earlier this summer.

But Mr Gilmore gave no indication that he would be personally voicing his objections to the US, aside from the official contacts.

"We already have. I have already said very clearly and publicly that it is unacceptable that any state would bug a friendly state, eavesdrop on telephone conversations or try to establish intelligence in that way.

"We have, at official level, raised this with the United States Embassy here. And at European Union level, the High Representative, Catherine Ashton, has raised it with the Secretary of State John Kerry and it is something that we are very clear on.

"The bugging of other telephones, you know, friends don't bug each other's telephones," he said. Mr Gilmore said the Government did not have any evidence of phones in Ireland being bugged.

"No, we have no information in relation to activity here. But I want to make it very clear that the eavesdropping on telephones here or indeed anywhere else in Europe is not acceptable to us," he said.

The contact with the US Embassy came from Geraldine Byrne Nason, the second secretary-general at the Department of the Taoiseach, in the wake of revelations of the bugging of EU countries.

The complaint followed the initial revelations about spying on France and the EU. The scandal escalated when it emerged German Chancellor Angela Merkel was being bugged by the US.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said last week he had not checked with the US authorities about Ireland also being on the list of friendly countries being targeted.

While Mr Kenny did not personally bring the matter up, Mr Gilmore said it was brought up on the Government's behalf in response to a parliamentary question. Last week, Mr Kenny said he had not raised the possibility of phone calls and emails in Ireland being spied on with the US authorities.

Fionnan Sheahan

Irish Independent

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